You read it correctly: ‘Banana Milkshake IPA‘. It’s bananas by name, bananas by nature. This thick, yellow oddity is our beer-based homage to the classic banana milkshake; full of both actual bananas, and actual craziness.
John Peel was probably our most talked about beer of 2020, and now it’s back in action and making people raise their eyebrows all over again. Never before has the word ‘IPA’ seemed so superfluous in a beer title. Let’s be honest, we’re not here for the hops this time. In fact, there aren’t really any in there anyway… just loads of bananas.
Our philosophy when brewing any style of beer is to match your drinkers’ expectations first, and then do what you can to try and exceed them. A stout for instance, ought to be full bodied and black. Get the basics right and to a high standard first, and then you can impress by making it extra delicious.
This did leave us in a quandary with John Peel. What on earth are people expecting when they see ‘Banana Milkshake IPA‘ on the can? Despite being a popular flavour of actual milkshake, it didn’t really exist in the beer world. Typical ‘Milkshake IPAs‘ use vanilla, fruit (usually mango, peach etc) lactose and hops, to make a ‘fruit ice cream/ hoppy IPA hybrid’… but bananas? This was covering some new ground.
In the end, we decided it had to be the following: Yellow. Sweet. Opaque. Thick. Tastes of banana. Tastes of ice cream.
If all the above could be achieved, then we should have met the expectations for what this fictional ‘Banana Milkshake IPA‘ might be like.
What about exceeding expectations? Well, we don’t actually think that many people would expect it to be possible in the first place. Perhaps then, we simply had to achieve what we set out to do and make a delicious beer that looks and tastes just like a banana milkshake. Cue John Peel.
It seems like an obvious question, but what is a banana milkshake? To our minds, there is a spectrum of banana milkshakes out there, ranging from 100% artificial, to 100% natural.
On one end there is your garden variety Yazoo-type milkshakes, which are just milk, colourings, sweeteners and flavourings. Very nice, but they are just that. On the other end you’ve got posh milkshakes made with real bananas (*gasp*), real vanilla (*gasp*), ice cream (*gasp*) and milk. We suppose McDonalds milkshakes are somewhere in the middle: an ice cream and milk mix, but with a flavoured, coloured syrup.
We needed to make sure that whatever type of milkshake you know and love, you could recognise an element of that type in John Peel. For that reason, John Peel contains both a real, pureéd banana component (the finished beer is about 8% banana by weight) and a dash of synthetic banana flavouring (isoamyl acetate). This is the very same flavouring that goes into ‘foam bananas‘ and most cheap milkshakes, and it lifts the aroma mostly. The real banana thickens the body, adds its own natural flavour, and ticks the box for ‘posh milkshake’.
Tastes like Ice Cream? Sadly, cheap vanilla flavouring is pretty awful. Given the choice between artificial and natural, it’s a no brainer – high quality (and eye-wateringly expensive) is the way to go. We use a genuine Madagascan vanilla extract that is so potent that it comes vacuum sealed in its container.
The ‘milk’ element of the ‘milkshake IPA’ comes from lactose (unfermentable, powdered milk sugar). It leaves the beer tasting creamy and sweet, but unfortunately renders the beer unsuitable for vegans. Sorry! We also use a malt-based unfermentable sugar (maltodextrin) to further sweeten the beer, which in its raw form it tastes like Horlicks powder. When these two sugars are combined, they taste like a malted milk biscuit!
Yellow? Thankfully it’s not too hard to make an opaque yellow beer, as is demonstrated by the existence of ‘New England IPA’. In a similar way, the John Peel base beer is largely a low colour Maris Otter pale malt, and at least 25% unmalted, flaked adjuncts such as oats and wheat. So, the beer is already very silky and cloudy to begin with, and the banana pureé just adds to that turbidity.
The process of naming beers is sometimes a long-winded one at Wild Weather. Names and ideas get changed and adjusted as we go, and we’re often in lengthy discussion as we look to find just the right level of withering pun, reference, or something else that works as a nod to a collaboration or an ingredient…
Not this time. What follows is the entire transcribed discussion for how we arrived at the name ‘John Peel‘:
JD: “I’d quite like to brew a Banana Milkshake IPA.”
Iain: “John Peel?”
Sometimes the first idea is the best idea!
John Peel Banana Milkshake IPA (5.5%) is now available in cans on our webshop where it can be bought in singles, 4 packs and cases OR as an option in our build your own 18 mixed case.
What’s that? An Imperial, 10.5% version of John Peel? No, that really would be ridiculous.
…or would it? Definitely don’t keep an eye on our social media, because there’s definitely nothing happening there…